I just got home from attending a three day conference in Nashville for Pastors and worship leaders. It was an amazing experience for a variety of reasons. Often, attending a conference is like drinking from a fire-hose. This was no different. But here is my attempt to give the highlights of conference.
1. We didn’t just talk about worship, but we worshiped.
The times of singing together to God were very good for my heart. Despite stylistic idiosyncrasies, like an accordion making an appearance, or that mandolin players tan leather jacket that was clearly a nod to redeeming the unloveable (good symbolism, bro!), I was often moved to think carefully about God’s love for his people, his chacracter, his mission, and his glory during the times of singing. Most of the music was not in the style of music that I prefer, but it was still powerful to worship together with so many people who love the Lord!
2. It was great to get away with Dave.
Dave and I have been working together for years as the pastor and corporate worship director at ReCAST. We get along well and understand each other. We also have a very similar philosophy of ministry, we have the same theological foundation, and we have adopted the same core-values for the church.
But with all that we have in common, this conference was a good opportunity to reaffirm those things, think through what may change, and even just hang out on the drive down and drive back. One comment that was made in one of the earlier session highlighted how important the relationship is between the lead pastor and the worship leader. When it goes well it a great! But when it doesn’t go well, it can be devastating. I am glad for Dave and enjoyed getting some hang time with him.
3. ReCAST has stumbled into some good habits.
One of the breakout sessions I attended was about liturgy. And the reality is that all churches have a liturgy. They have a structure to what they do during the service. As a church plant we did not begin with a given liturgy, but instead we have developed our own.
And it felt confirming to listen to the things that make for a good liturgy. At this point the liturgy of our service takes the current form.
We are called to the gathering of God’s people by a welcome and introduction to the sermon.
We are brought into the presence of God through the reading of His revelation in the scripture reading.
We acknowledge his goodness, grace, and glory through corporate singing.
We remember we are not alone in this journey through announcements and connection time.
We listen to the Almighty speaking into our journey through the sermon.
We recall God’s great love granted to us through Christ in communion.
We are called back out into the world to respond to encountering God in His Word in community.
I am a fairly intentional individual and this has not been an accident. But it is sometimes good to receive confirmation that we are on the right track.
4. Millennials want more hymns
It was interesting to sit and listen to a panel with millennial who identified that the following is true of them. “The things our grandparents fought to keep, our parents threw away, and now our generation is working to buy them back.” This was in the context of forms of worship and music in particular.
It is very easy to misunderstand the next generation, and I think millennial are easily misunderstood. It is not my intention to reach only millennials, but the future of the church requires that we reach millennials. And the last thing we should do in reaching millennials is to adopt a pragmatistic approach that just does certain things or includes certain songs in order to draw them in. This new generation doesn’t want to be sold something, they want to be brought into something that has true significance and depth. They are a generation asking ‘why does this matter?’ And they are asking it early in the process.
The answer for our church is not then to just switch to hymns. But it is to remember that we should do what we do with authenticity and a genuine passion for Christ. It is exciting to think that a generation is looking for connection to deeper meaning instead of the shallow feelings that are often pursued by the larger and more prominent generation before them.
5. We must not engineer our worship in order to reach out to a demographic.
One person commented during the conference that we must encourage Christians to be happy when we are singing someone else’s favorite song. Too often we have warred in the church over worship styles. Some have even suggested that a certain style is the key to outreach. But I was moved throughout this conference to consider and ponder the reason why we sing songs in the church. It is not to please ourselves. It is not to be entertained. It is not to show off our voices or showcase our sick guitar, piano, violin, or accordion skills. It ought to be SOLELY to worship God in spirit and in truth.
I have a favorite style, and every single person in my congregation has a favorite style. But in our move toward maturity, we should find ourselves increasingly being edified and built up by things that are not our preferences. One quote in the conference that stood out to me in a powerful way stated, “The mature Christian is easily edified.” This simply means that the mature Christian is able to receive many various things in the course of being built up in Christ. The mature Christian is not easily moved to critique, but is much more prone to be built up, even when the music is off, when the power point goes askew, and the coffee is bad!
I am so grateful that I serve with a group of elders that value this kind of conference attendance and even budget for it. I am grateful for a worship leader who “gets it” and is seeking to worship God first in all he does. And I am grateful that God, who is so worthy of worship, has given us so many beautiful ways to worship Him . . . Even the accordion.